“When it comes to love, the decisions people make do not simply result from the process philosophers call ‘free will’. There is plenty of evidence to show that if love is the key to marriage, Cupid’s arrow is carefully aimed by the society around us,” (quote in my sociology textbook).
But in India, is being in love really a decision of free will? As Indian society advanced, the acceptance of love increased a little. But it should be noted that people started to fall in love with people within their same caste or class.
There’s also a new concept that arose called “arranged-cum-love marriage”. Your family chooses someone for you, and you start talking to them, then you fall in love and get married.
But exceptions exist. And this is the story of that exception.
Shivangi Priya (name changed), who cares a lot for her father, fell in love with a boy, Shahbaaz Nadeem (name changed). She helped her father run his own academic business. Before falling in love with her now-husband, her father was everything for her. She said that she dedicated her whole time to support her father. In the short term, she was the accountant of her father’s academic business.
Priya is a middle-class girl. Her childhood dream was to become an IAS officer. She is the eldest of her siblings. In the academic business, she encountered Nadeem.
Earlier, she thought he looked very young because he had a beard. She mentioned that she could not think about things like love. But as things went on, suddenly, Nadeem said to her one day, “I like you.” She was surprised and agreed that they could be friends. And then things started.
She talked with him through messages using a feature phone (not a smartphone). The noticeable fact here; that phone belonged to her father. This whole hidden love story continued for several months.
As time passed, her father found out about this so-called mess. He intensely argued with her and ended up beating her gently. In the process of narrating her story, she continuously said that she loved her father very much. And amidst this COVID-situation, she managed to free herself. After this, they married through legal procedure.
She belongs to an endogamous society. So, it’s difficult for her to love a boy who comes from another group. She said, “Yhan to jaati hi alag ho to samasya ho jaati hai aur maine to kisi alag dharam waale se pyaar kiya hai aur wo bhi musalman (If caste is different, a problem arises, and in this situation, I love a boy who is Muslim).”
“Lekin kabhi na kabhi ye structure to tutna hi tha. Agar mujhe apni zindagi banani hai to faisla to khud hi lena padega na. Aur agar parents shaadi karwa bhi dete to kya guarantee tha ki achha hi hota (But this structure had to end someday. If I want to make my life better, I need to take my own decisions. Even if my parents find me a boy, there is no guarantee I will be treated better).”
“But here now, I am happy with my husband,” she added.
She also added that dowry was prevalent in her society and the girls family has to fulfil all the shauq (desires) of the boy and his family.
She describes herself as an intelligent student. She was always interested in her studies. She got good marks in her intermediate exam. Then she had to stop her studies for several years due to her circumstances. And now she is doing her undergraduate degree from a prestigious university.
She talks about how she took admission to the university:
“Nadeem pahle se jaante the ki mai padhai karne me interested hoon aur unhe yah maine bataya tha ki mujhe IAS officer banna hai. To jaise hi mai yhan aayee unhone kaha ki is university ka form bhar do. Maine Hindi honors rakh kar form bhara, uske baad entrance exam diya aur mera selection ho gaya. Nadeem bhi wahin se padhe the.”
“(Nadeem knew I was interested in studying further and I told him that my goal was to become an IAS officer. He suggested I fill the university entrance form. I gave my exam and was selected).”
“I attend my classes all day and end up tired,” she giggled. She deliberately added that no one could think about being admitted to this prestigious university in the small town she belonged to. And many don’t even know about this university. Her family doesn’t know that she is in university.
Talking about her family, she continuously claimed her love for her father. As I asked about her family, she said, “Maine apne pariwaar ke sabhi logon ki tasveer apne kamre me laga kar rakha hai. Unki bahut yaad aaati hai. Mai baat nahi kar paati apne family member se. Pata nahi papa mujhe accept karenge ki nahi. Lekin Nadeem ki baat hui hai 2-3 baar. Mai apne doston se baat karti hoon kabhi-kabhi.”
“(I have kept pictures of my family in my room. I miss them a lot. I can’t talk to my family. I don’t know if my father will accept me or not. But Nadeem has spoken with them a couple of times. I talk to my friends sometimes).”
Talking about Nadeem’s family, she said that he was in touch with his elder brother. His family knows a little, but not the whole story. Adding to this, Nadeem is a government employee.
She said, “Mai diary likhti hoon, har roz nahin, lekin jab bhi koi achha moment hota hai na tab mai use diary me likh leti hoon (I write in my diary, not every day, but when there’s a good moment, I write it in my diary).” She added, “Filmein bhi dekhte hain. Waise ab jyada ho gya hai kyonki Nadeem ko movies pasand hai, isliye (We watch a lot of movies now because Nadeem likes them).”
“Agar mai kal pradhanmantri bhi ban jaungi na to papa mujhe accept nahi karenge kyunki ye jo religion ka masslah hai na, ye alag hi level par hai. Log label lagane lagte hain ki kaisi ladki hai pariwaar ka bhi nahi socha ek baar bhi.”
“(Even if I became the Prime Minister, my father wouldn’t accept me because of the religious issues in society. People put labels and say that the girl is selfish didn’t think about her family).”